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Lots of friends but still lonely

I’m popular at school, but I still feel that I can’t talk to anyone about my grief for my dad. It’s hard to open up, says our elder. But why not give your friends a chance to help?

Dear EWC

I’ve always been somewhat lucky in the social department. I end up with friends and people tend to like me and regard me as a natural leader in school. I have a very sweet boyfriend who gets me and the way my mind works. I also have a tight circle of friends that all care about one another’s well-being. In this regard I’m deeply blessed for a high schooler. On the other hand, I feel practically incapable of leaning on the people in my network. 

Honestly, these days I just want someone to talk to about my life, my dad, and things I struggle with. I know that many of these people would listen attentively, but as of yet, I haven’t been able to reach a place where I feel understood. My dad died of cancer when I was seven, and ever since, it’s felt like an off-limits area. As I get older, I know more kids with dead parents, friends, and family members, and yet it sometimes feels like I can’t talk about my own grief because it’s older. It’s as though my younger stature at the time makes it infantile to feel and work with my own feelings of grief. 

I think my feelings of relative isolation have been perpetuated by my mom’s current relationship. Simply put, I don’t get along well with her boyfriend. He is dismissive of my interests and seems to value my company only to the end that it helps him connect with my mom. It might not bother me under other circumstances, but between the pandemic and the fact that my dad was just a better human being (I know this may not be true, but it’s how I feel), it just feels lonely in my house. What can I do to bridge the gap between my friends and me in the midst of quarantine and my own mind? P.S. It didn’t fit with the rest of the letter, but I’m doing worse in school that I’ve ever done and it’s definitely having negative impacts on my self esteem.

Angel replies

I am glad you wrote to us, Lillie, but I am sorry to hear that you have been feeling sad about the death of your father and also sad about your mother’s boyfriend. I am sure that losing your father at age seven was very difficult for both you and your mother. It sounds like you have never been able to really open up and talk about how hard this has all been for you and work through some of the feelings you have been having ever since that time.

Grief is something that always needs to be worked through. It has several stages and if we don’t work our way through those, we will always be stuck by those unresolved feelings. You are lucky to have many friends and a boyfriend, who all seem to like you very much and enjoy their time with you. Perhaps you have not given them a chance to help you and show you that they can be good friends and help you through this.

I know it is hard to ask for help for many people, but that is what good friends and boyfriends are for. So why not pick two or three and try saying something like, “I have been struggling with some unresolved issues about my family and I wonder if you would mind being a good friend and listening and maybe you can give me some ideas to try?” You might be surprised that they would love to help you and might be very good listeners and offer some suggestions to try.

Remember that it takes a brave and strong person to be vulnerable and open up to others when you have problems and need help. But this can make relationships even stronger and bring people together.

Other ideas to try, besides your boyfriend and other friends, are seeing a therapist, social worker, or counselor to help you work through your feelings and get more clarity on all you have been through and give you steps to take moving forward. Or perhaps you might have a relative, neighbor, teacher, religious leader or family friend that could help you and that you can trust to be honest with you.

Also, you could try speaking with your mother about how lonely you feel in the house and how it feels like her boyfriend is not interested in you and does not really care about you, except to get close to her. Maybe she would appreciate knowing that and that might make her rethink their relationship or help him to at least try harder to include you and be kind to you.

You seem like a wonderful person, Lillie, and I wish you all the best as you try some of these ideas and reach out for help. It is important to take these steps, especially since it is now affecting your school work as well as your self esteem. I will be thinking about you and wishing you only the very best. Remember that we are always here for you if you need us.

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Friendship

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